Most authors are not marketers by trade. Since marketing a book is such an expensive endeavor, many authors have to get creative in more ways than one.
Recently, I returned to the author world after a two-year hiatus. I had taken some time off to complete my degree in Communications, and I was shocked at how much the author world had changed…and not changed. Marketing strategies evolve over time, but the core concepts that gave birth to the indie community – most notably, the idea that all authors deserve to have their voices heard, not only the ones with the most influence or money – stay the same.
Becoming an author is what inspired me to become a marketing professional. I learned a lot from simply promoting my own books, and it sparked an interest in the industry as a whole. Marketing an indie book is never easy, but here are some strategies that might help rescue your book from the dreaded 1 million+ Amazon sales rank.
I tested these over a three-month period when I re-entered the author world to publish my latest release, Rock Her Long. As an employee of a nonprofit start-up, I don’t have a lot of disposable income, so I was looking for strategies with the highest ROI for the lowest cost possible. I’ve divided these by cost and no-cost since author budgets vary widely depending on whether or not you have a day job (or high sales in general). Each one of these strategies is one I have tested personally that produced results.
Zero or Low Cost
Author Newsletter Swaps
Newsletters are the holy grail of book marketing for a reason. I work for a website that promotes child literacy, and we promote children’s books in our newsletters that reach 250K potential book shoppers. Major league children’s publishers pay upwards of $5-7K for newsletter marketing to large groups of parents and educators. Why? Because newsletters work. Your subscribers are already interested in books, so you can reach your target market without even trying.
As an author, I usually get anywhere between 5-15+ sales by simply swapping newsletter promotions with another author. This is most effective if you swap with an author who writes in the same genre (and niche) as you. For instance, if you write urban fantasy, try to swap with another author who writes urban fantasy.
The best part of swapping newsletter slots with another author is there is NO COST to doing this (except for the cost of your newsletter itself, which, if you are serious about promoting your books, you should be willing to invest in).
If you are a romance author, sign up to swap with me. I share other romance authors’ work in my monthly newsletter.
Book bloggers have long engaged in a wonderful practice on Facebook of putting out “Pimp Posts” every week (sometimes every day). Authors and PAs can put teasers and blurbs in the comments, and many times the blog will share them to thousands of readers. You should be taking advantage of this if you’re an indie author.
Are you a romance author? Post your books on my daily pimp posts at Aly’s Rockin’ Romance Reads.
I’ve listed this one as $0, although there are some services that charge a nominal fee for newsletter builders. I hosted a book bundle newsletter giveaway recently, in which I charged the authors nothing except for one or more ebook donations. We ended up getting a fair amount of newsletter subscribers with ZERO financial investment. Even if you do have to pay for a newsletter builder promotion, these are well worth the cost. Newsletters are one of the main ways readers find books within the indie community.
Interested in a romance book bundle newsletter builder? Sign up for my next one.
This is another service that can have a minimal charge, depending on how many reviews you want. Booksprout has an ARC management option that has produced incredible results for me. Not only is it much easier to get reviews for new and existing books, but the reviews come from real readers, who will oftentimes buy the book after reading it if they’ve enjoyed it and post verified reviews on Amazon.
Even if your reviewers don’t buy your book, having a lot of reviews on Amazon helps your search ranking and also adds to your book’s credibility. You can get up to 20 review sign-ups per book on the free plan, 50 for $10/month, or unlimited for $20/month.
Note: not everyone who signs up to review the book will follow through. I got 70 review sign-ups on my latest release, and only 41 of those people submitted a review. Still, 41 reviews for $20 isn’t bad at all and I would do it again in a heartbeat.
This is a simple way to improve your ranking on Amazon. Search for books in your genre and see which keywords pop up. Then add those keywords to your book listing.
For instance, I have a single dad/nanny romance. I searched for single dad/nanny romances on Amazon, and based on the suggested search terms, these are the keywords I added to my book listing under Edit eBook Details on KDP:
Sadly, the sales boost I got from doing this was shortlived, but I did see a small spike in sales after making this quick update to my book listing (which cost absolutely nothing).
Promotional Investments that are Worth the Cost
In a study on how readers discover books, respondents ranked word of mouth (including FB and other social media) as most important. Nothing makes readers want to read a book more than hearing someone else sing its praises.
When you hire a PA, readers are hearing about your book from someone other than yourself. Even if they’re just doing everything you would normally do, it holds more value coming from them. I saw a major spike in my sales after hiring a PA to share my book for three months (about twice the sales I would usually make sharing my own work). Now I work as a PA because I want to bring that same level of success to other authors.
Note: if you’re having trouble hiring a PA due to cost, try out the lowest level of their services first (a one-week promotion, for instance) and see if your sales rise enough to justify the cost. If you really can’t afford any sort of payment, ask someone who is just starting out with author promotion if they’ll promote you for free (or free books) to increase their own visibility as a PA. There’s no guarantee they’ll say yes, but you’ll never know unless you try!
I tried Facebook ads many times and failed miserably. Then I found Bookbub Partner Ads, and it was like the whole world opened up to me.
Bookbub Partner Ads allow you to target your ads to followers of authors whose works are similar to yours. You can choose a daily budget and whether you want to target clicks or impressions. I absolutely love this because, contrary to Facebook marketing, you are guaranteed to reach readers, and if you target the right authors, you will reach the readers who are most likely to buy your book.
My tips for getting the most out of Bookbub ads:
- Target clicks rather than impressions. Getting large numbers of people to see your book is great, but unless they’re clicking, you’re not making sales. I increased my click-through rate from 1% to 4% by switching to CPC (Cost per Click) instead of CPM (Cost-Per-Thousand Impressions). Your impressions will be by those most likely to purchase your book this way, and when readers buy and enjoy one of your books, they’re more likely to buy another.
- Pause your ad until the right time of day. If you leave your ad running, it will start at 12 AM each day, which isn’t necessarily the best time to reach hungry readers. I’ve found that the best time of day to unpause Bookbub ads is Wednesdays and Fridays around 11:30 AM EST.
- Use a custom ad design instead of a Bookbub-generated one. My click-throughs skyrocketed when I designed my own ad instead of using the one Bookbub generates using a one-liner and your book cover.
Book Blitzes and Tours
Cover reveals and release blitzes are now an expected staple in any book release plan. Book blogs in your genre are still a great way to reach readers of your genre. I’ve found that between cover reveals, blog tours and release blitzes, the new release announcements are the most important. If you can include a giveaway, you’ll reach even more readers.
If you’re doing a free or $0.99 book promotion, I highly recommend KDROI. There is a one-time cost to purchase the program, but once you have it, you can easily submit your book sales to multiple newsletters with a few clicks. I got 1700+ free downloads on Rock Her Hard by submitting my free promo to newsletters (I hope you’re noticing a theme here – newsletters matter!).
These are the strategies that have worked best for me. What has worked for you?
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